Re: [xmca] Streamed Discussion of Discussion of Development in CHAT theory

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Wed Nov 14 2007 - 20:11:41 PST

Actually I think the writer who brought this word into currency was
Althusser, and for Althusser "agency" means being an agent in the same
sense as we can be agents for the spreading of measles. On the other side,
postmodernists of a certain variety use "agency" to mean a "feeling" like
people who vote for "American Idol". It is a good word, but very contested,
I think.
At 07:31 PM 14/11/2007 -0800, you wrote:
> I gather you don't like the word "agency". It's Mike's word, not mine
> (and it's not LSV's either, as you point out). But I don't see what is
> wrong with it. It's one of those really delightful expressions that means
> both itself and its opposite (like "I could care less" or "I couldn't
> care less" or "I thought you'd REMEMBER me" and "I THOUGHT you'd remember
> me"). We say that somebody who can do things for his or herself has
> "agency", but of course when we want somebody to do something for us we
> go to a travel/real estate agent.
> I'm very fond of these pushmipullyu expressions because they show so
> very clearly how WRONG it is to think that (as my colleagues in the
> phonology department like to say) utterances or words or phonemes "carry"
> meaning. They only point to where you have to rummage around to find it,
> and in that sense even the most symbolic expressions are merely indexes.
> Very well then. Here is another place for you to rummage around in
> order to find my meaning. This morning there was a story about how Sir
> Simon Rattle, conducting a performance of Mahler's Ninth, was disturbed
> by coughing sounds from the audience. He stepped off the stage into the
> audience and explained to them that Mahler's Ninth was written to include
> a moment of silence at the beginning and at the end, and that the
> audience thus had to participate in the creation of the music by
> providing that silence. He even took out a handkerchief and demonstrated
> how to blow your nose silently as if he were showing a novice orchestra
> member how to play a particularly challenging instrumental passage.
> That's all I meant to say: the audience has a peripheral role, while
> the orchestra is central. But as Sir Simon points out, a peripheral role
> is still a role. My ex-grad would complain that it is a non-interactive
> one, but in fact this is not strictly true either, else Sir Simon would
> not have had to stop the performance. Mutatis mutandis, a child whose
> only way of communicating is crying, who stops crying when the
> communicative need is satisfied even when the underlying biological need
> remains, is still playing a social role.
> (At the end of the piece, the story says, the audience remained silent,
> but you could hear police sirens outside the concert hall...)
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
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Received on Wed Nov 14 20:12 PST 2007

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